BACKGROUND: Although schools have been identified as significant settings in the response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, limited research is available on how they can accommodate Youth Living with HIV/AIDS (YLWHA), especially in resource limited countries. In this study, we explored strategies by school stakeholders (school staff, parents/caretakers, and students) in western Uganda to care for and support YLWHA in their schools.
METHODS: The article utilizes data collected between May and October, 2019 from a qualitative inquiry based on focus group discussions and interviews with 88 school stakeholders purposively selected from 3 secondary schools in western Uganda. Textual data was analyzed thematically involving both inductive and deductive coding.
RESULTS: We identified 7 overarching interrelated themes in which participants reported strategies to care for and support YLWHA: counselling and guidance; social support networks and linkages; knowledge and skills; anti-stigma and anti-discrimination measures; disclosure of HIV status; treatment and management of HIV/AIDS; and affirmative actions for YLWHA. Stakeholders' strategies often differed regarding what was considered appropriate, the approach and who to take lead in supporting YLWHA.
CONCLUSIONS: Despite the limited care and support strategies specific for YLWHA currently available in schools, our study points to optimism and high potential given stakeholders' identified avenues for improvement. We posit that promoting HIV/AIDS-care and support in schools is a gradual process requiring each school to develop a strong knowledge base about HIV/AIDS and support needs of YLWHA, develop a coherent and school-wide approach, and collaborate extensively with external stakeholders who are significant in supporting YLWHA.